By Amy Lukac
How many people know of and love HONY? If I were to walk around campus and ask everyone if they follow HONY, I am almost positive the majority of students would know what I’m talking about.
On February 14 of this year, on the corner of 5th Avenue and West 42nd Street, an ESU psychology major, Victoria Costello, got the chance to be interviewed by Brandon Stanton. Stanton, photographer and creator of HONY, has over 13 million followers on his blog, and 2.7 million on Instagram.
“After I lost my trading job, I decided to move to New York City and take portraits of strangers on the street. Mom wasn’t too happy about that decision, but so far it’s gone pretty well. I’ve taken nearly 5,000 portraits and written 50 stories. And I’ve met some amazing people along the way,” Brandon Stanton stated on his blog.
“HONY is a place where real people are photographed and the snippets from their stories accompanying each photo go from funny, to sad, to beautiful, and to absolutely heartbreaking” said Costello.
Stanton started HONY with a goal to map out New York City and eventually photograph 10,000 New Yorkers. Not only does Stanton have a HONY blog and an Instagram, but he published his stories and pictures in a book that came out not too long ago. His book, “Humans of New York” is a #1 New York Times best seller. Costello has been a fan since the very beginning.
“When Brandon published his first HONY book full of new, never-before-seen portraits, I was visiting my dad when the book was released and I remember giving my dad an overview of HONY, trying to explain the reasons as to why we had to run out to Barnes and Noble at that very moment to buy the book” she said.
Brandon Stanton is a different type of celebrity. The creator of HONY never posts pictures of himself on any of his social media platforms so for many of his fans his face remains a mystery. The lucky ESU student is one of a few that do have a clue what he looks like from watching countless interviews.
“Every time in the last three years that I’ve visited New York City (usually 3-4 times per year) without fail, I have dreamt of running into Brandon and being on HONY. There was no celebrity, or famous person that even came remotely close to the excitement I felt when I thought about what it would be like to be on HONY,” she said.
I am certain that one of Costello’s dreams had come true in the big city of New York in the cold month of February. It’s amazing how dreams can come true when you’re not even looking for it.
“As I walk down the street, I completely walk past Brandon as I am in disbelief that it’s him. Quickly I turn around and immediately say, ‘Brandon, I love you! I’ve been following your blog for years and ran out like a crazy person to buy your first book when it came out!’ as tears start streaming down my face,” Costello said.
As far as I know, Brandon Stanton doesn’t take many pictures of people that approach him, or have friends with them. He usually picks out the people he wishes to take a picture of and gets to know their story. I personally think that is a great idea, because he approaches people as themeselves before they get “camera ready.”
“He hugged me and we took a picture together. As this is my opportunity to end up on the blog, I immediately asked if he would take my picture. He agreed, but since I was with my friend Jaimeson, he said it’s proven to be difficult for people to open up when they’re around their friends, so he asked me to walk down the block a little so we can talk. At this point, I’m still in shock and can’t believe this is happening. I take my hair out of its ponytail as I realized 13 million people are going to be seeing this photo of me,” she added.
HONY is all about getting to know the person with the story in the picture. Sometimes I scroll through and read all of the different life experiences and stories and I find myself being inspired. Some of the stories are humorous, and they have the tendency to brighten up your day a little.
I do have to admit that some of the stories are so relatable, it almost makes me uncomfortable for a minute, but then I realize that there are other people out there that went through some of the same problems, and I feel a little better about it.
Costello’s story she shared with Stanton doesn’t fit in the humorous category, but it fits in the inspiring category for sure.
“Brandon took his camera off his arm and asks me to stand in the middle of the sidewalk as he begins snapping some pictures. Then, he asks me, ‘What is your current struggle right now?’ Immediately I begin crying. Imagine meeting your biggest idol or model of inspiration. That was me in this moment. I was so overwhelmed that this was even happening. After a few tears, my answer to his question was simple: my depression. I started talking about my father being sick with a brain tumor and what it was like finding out about it the night before the surgery, and how being his care giver impacted me,” she said.
Not many people are able to meet the person they look up to the most. It is much harder if your idol and inspiration is a celebrity of some sort. Can you imagine how you would feel if you got the chance to say a few words to your idol? I was able to relate with that aspect of this story seeing as I was lucky enough to have met my biggest inspiration as well, so I was glad that I was able to relate to Victoria during this interview.
HONY is a place where people can relate to stories like Victoria’s, and that was exactly what she needed. She felt a strong sense of vulnerability because 13 million people on the Internet were going to see her photo and read her story.
After religiously refreshing the HONY page, she started to lose hope. On February 25, as she left her 1:00 P.M. class, she checked her phone and saw a bunch of texts from her friend that also followed HONY, followed by a link.
“There were thousands of comments pouring in, and over 100 thousand “likes” on my photo after being posted only two short hours ago. Then, about two hours after my photo was posted, Brandon posted another photo of me with the continuation of the story about my dad. I was on HONY… TWICE! I remember feeling overwhelmed by the love and support from complete strangers,” said Costello.
The ecstatic ESU student explained that she felt so alone while going through the hard times with her father, but now there were so many people responding to her photos relating with similar situations and telling her how strong of a person she is.
“That sense of vulnerability I felt after I was interviewed vanished as there was not a single negative comment I read. Now, I am still receiving personal messages and comments on the photos from people looking for advice dealing with a similar situation, or just telling me how my story has inspired them. I’m still on cloud 9 and still can’t believe that I was on HONY. This has been a dream come true and I still can’t believe it happened,” she said.
There are too many negative websites, posts, blogs, and more on the Internet today. It really is hard to find something to keep you inspired. Some people receive text alerts when their inspiration or idol tweets, and some people simply just look up inspirational quotes.
If you’re someone that is struggling with something, feel alone, or just want to feel inspired, follow HONY. Your dream might evolve into making an appearance on Brandon Stanton’s blog.
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